Tennis Rules on Switching Sides

The rules of tennis dictate when to switch sides of the court.

The rules of tennis dictate when to switch sides of the court.

Tennis players worldwide play the sport according to the rules set forth by the International Tennis Federation. The rules are designed to ensure a fair and equal playing field for all players. One rule dictates when a player can switch sides of the court. Players are only allowed to switch sides at specific times during match play. Players switch sides while serving, after games and after tiebreaker points. Knowing when to switch sides helps with the flow of the match.

Switching Serving Sides

During a game the server switches sides after every point on his half of the court. The first point is always served diagonally cross court, from right to left, into the receiver's service box. The server then switches to the left side of the court and serves the ball diagonally cross court, from left to right. Play continues with the server alternating sides on his half of the court until the game is won or lost.

Switching Sides During and After a Set

The rules state that players switch sides, or change ends, of the court after every odd game. For example, players change ends after the first, third, fifth, and every subsequent odd game during the set. Players are not allowed a rest period during the first change of ends, but are allowed a 90-second break during all other change of ends. When the set is over, players also change sides of the court unless the total number of games played in the set is an even number. In this case, players play the first game of the next set and then change ends.

During a Tiebreaker

A 12-point tiebreaker is played when the set score becomes tied at six games. The first player or team to win seven points with a margin of two points wins the tiebreaker and the set. Players change ends of the court after every six points. The 90-second break rule during a change of ends does not apply during a tiebreaker; play is continuous.

During the Coman Tiebreaker

The Coman Tiebreaker, a version of the 12-point tiebreaker, has been adopted by many local Untied States Tennis Association (USTA) leagues. The main difference is when the players switch ends of the court. Instead of playing six points and then changing ends, players switch after the first point and then after every four points. The USTA considers this to be fairer because players switch ends of the court more often. By doing so, one player or team does not have to play six consecutive points facing strong winds or a blinding sun.

During a 10-Point Match Tiebreaker

Another version of the 12-point tiebreaker, sometimes a 10-point match tiebreaker is used in place of the final set in a best-of-three set match or a best-of-five set match. The first player or team to win 10 points with a margin of two points wins the tiebreaker and the match. Similar to the Coman Tiebreaker, players switch ends of the court after the first point and then after every four points.

 

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